We are in the first week of Lent for those of us who are Christian. If you haven't decided on something positive to do this Lent - what about adopting a vegan diet during the week days of Lent? Too hard? Then try vegetarianism. With this new diet, you may even notice that you are feeling better, and who knows- maybe even some pounds will drop off. But please - more veggies, salads, soups, and grain dishes than pasta and ice cream. The internet abounds with a host of delicious recipes.
Yes, I am vegan for Lent. But then I am vegan every day because
I think it is such a rewarding lifestyle. In the 80's during the
Reagon administration when I heard about h ow we treat our farm
animals, I felt sure that when people found out about this cruelty-
where we shove chickens, pigs, calves, and cows into cages, crates,
or stiffling confining factory farm conditions, that t hey would be
as horrified as I was. We all would hopefully agitate for a return
to small farms where animals could have a life and be free from this
type of suffering.
Was I ever wrong. A young woman working in the same department as
I at Cleveland City Hall at this time simply said to me upon hearing
about farm animal cruelty- she didn't care and had to have her meat.
And sad to say, that over the years I have found that she was not
alone in this way of thinking. In fact, it is pretty much universal.
I give her credit though -if for nothing else than for being honest.
I might be wrong too in blaming the Reagon adminstration. I believe
the CAFO concept started in Europe, and so no matter who would have
been president at this time, he probably would not have objected to
this new cruel concept as well. Certainly, the presidents following
him seem to not have cared about the suffering of our farm animals
in cafos- since I have never heard even one of them speaking out against
them. Are they afraid of shaking the "economic boat?" Obviously.
For years now we have been conned into believing that BIG IS BETTER.
I remember as an elementary school teacher many years ago- seeing
a "propaganda" film with the children. We saw huge farm tracts of
thousand of acres of waving wheat or corn replacing the small farms
which had dotted our country side. Yes, big is better was now the new
mantra of those times, and it would soon also turn its focus on the
raising of our farm animals as well.
We were told that this new manner of producing our grains, veggies,
and fruits would mean cheaper prices at the supermarkets. While true,
there was a hidden cost no one told us about. For one thing freshness
would be compromised as produce was harvested early and shipped green
and unripened to cities throughout the country. How natural is that?
Herbicides were needed to kill weeds, and it was spread liberally on
all growing plants. Is this healthy? Is this wise? Of course,
none of these two drawbacks of "Big is Better" was mentioned in these
promotional films. Should we be surprised? No. At some point of
personal maturity, I believe that we all started to take a second
look at government policies, and often found that all too many of
them would benefit a precious few while hurting others- and that's
most of us.
I still can remember the delicious taste of corn, tomatoes, and
watermellon I enjoyed as a child when they were grown on nearby truck
farms. In my opinion, their taste cannot be duplicated with the
produce we buy today from the "Big is Better" farms. And, of course,
the biggest concern is that our veggies and fruits are covered with
herbicides. You can even find a place on the internet which warns
us of the "dirty" veggies and fruits. Sadly, if you like strawberries-
they are on the "dirty" list.
But what bothers me even more than these large farm tracts was the
snapping up of little farms where animals had dotted the meadows and
landscape. In the barnyard chickens had clucked happily while scratching
in the dirt u nder the bright rays of sunlight. They were gone now -
snatched up into the huge cafos from hell, Here they are deprived of
everything sentient beings treasure - fresh air, sunlight, movement,
and interaction with their families. To tell the truth, I still
can't believe that we could be and are so cruel.
Depriving our fellow living creatures these basic needs made me
want to hope that this was all just a bad dream and one I would
hopefully awaken from. But sadly no. It is very real, and our
farm animals suffer the world over in these terrible places of only
existence and suffering to satisfy man's meat lust.
And perhaps the saddest thing in all of this is that the greater
majority of people don't really care. I know my extended family
doesn't care. I doubt that the greater number of members of my
parish church care because they found no difficulty in attending
a recent ben efit pork chop dinner. I doubt that the vast majority
of popes, b ishops, priests, and nuns care. Maybe some do, but only
a relatively few that I had personally contacted responded in a
I believe for things to change, it is necessary for the church to
come out with a teaching of compassion. Instead they have been
promoting the utility principle of St. Thomas Aquinas. He certainly
is no friend of animals.
Yesterday at our little shopping center, a nice man apologized to me
because he thought t hat he had parked too close to my car trunk and
made it difficult for me to unload my groceries. I was surprised at
his thought fulness, but assured him that I had no difficulty at all
in this regard because of his parking.
He then mentioned that he noticed the stickers on my bumper - among
them "Boycott veal -Stop factory farming." Yes, he said that he stopped
eating veal because of the suffering calves. But I then asked him why
he ate meat at all because all the farm animals suffer.
Well, he said he was trying to become vegetarian but his wife and
kids didn't think as he did along this line which made it difficult.
Yes, I suppose, but not impossible, if he were truly concerned and
He then also mentioned that he was a fire fighter and this too posed
even more difficulty. I smiled. Yes, trying to convince "macho" fire
fighters to become vegetarian would be a challenge e xcept that one
firefighter met it head on. Rip Esselstyn, for mer triathlete and fire
fighter, living in a Texas firehouse at the time did just that.
His father had once been a heart surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic so he
knew something about the need to adopt a healthy plant-based diet. Seeing
that some of his fellow firemen had serious health issues, he sought
to help them by providing a healthy diet for them to follow. The results
were astounding, and some of them lost unneeded weight and/or their
health problems began to disappear.
Esselstyn also wrote a cookbook to help anyone attempting to improve
their health. It is called The Engine 2 Diet Cookbook. Can you imagine
that his book would be successful in Texas beef country? And it also
came to the attention of Mayor Rahm Emmanuel of Chicago who featured
him on Chicago TV. He asked Chicagoans to consider adopting a vegan
lifestyle. He knows well that a healthier plant-based diet will cut down
on health issues and costs. He said that he is vegan except for eating
meat twice a month. Kudos to him and anyone else who becomes vegan for
whatever reasons. However, I believe that those who are moved by compassion
will probably keep this lifestyle their whole life. For me, it is the
only reason I need.
Another thought in this regard is recalling the 4,000 people who were
stuck on a cruise ship for 5 days. They complained how miserable they
were, and I couldn't help but think how lucky they were in comp arison
to our suffering, confined animals in cafos.
They complained they lacked adequate bathroom facilities and there was
a shortage of food. I thought they were in heaven in comparison to
what happens to our farm animals who have to inhale their own urine
vapors and fecal dropping smells in closed quarters every day of their
The passengers could move around on the ship. Our poor farm animals
are either in cages, crates, or stifling factory farm settings with
some of them even unable to turn around. No, if they would have given
some thought to our incarcerated farm animals, they would have realized
that their suffering was minimal in comparison.
Re Lent -I believe a beautiful vegan concept has been lost in the
Byzantine churches in America. In Europe the Slavic people observed a
Meat-fare and Cheese- fare Sunday in their liturgical commemorations
before the beginning of Lent. This meant that with the prospective
Sunday -meat and then dairy would be removed from their Lenten diet.
They were probably the first vegans with the exception of our first
parents - Adam and Eve. Even though the mention of these liturgical
Sundays are still kept in the Byzantine rite, the actual exclusion of
meat and dairy from their diet during Lent- I believe is not. However,
some Greek Orthodox may still be truly observing this penance ritual
throughout the whole of their Lent. If so, wonderful.